Chernobyl Will Soon Be Converted Into a Giant Solar Farm

Sunday, 03 December 2017 - 6:31PM
Sunday, 03 December 2017 - 6:31PM
Chernobyl Will Soon Be Converted Into a Giant Solar Farm
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Flickr/Carl Montgomery
While you're likely familiar with the Chernobyl incident, just in case you're one of today's lucky 10,000: in 1986, a faulty nuclear reactor in the city of Chernobyl, Ukraine suffered a catastrophic failure, pouring radiation into the surrounding city and forcing a mass evacuation, where Chernobyl has remained abandoned and radioactive to this day (although there are tours that wind through the safe portions).

But instead of being remembered as an empty and radioactive city, Chernobyl could eventually be known for its solar farms and lingering radioactivity (you can't really ignore that). According to Bloomberg, the Ukrainian engineering firm Rodina and German clean-energy company Enerparc AG are developing a massive solar energy project for the city, and they're expected to receive a commission from Ukraine's government next month.

In this case, "massive" means a solar farm that will purportedly be one megawatt in size that costs $1.2 million to build, which is a safe enough distance from the old reactor. Despite the high costs, it wasn't too difficult to secure: Ukraine's minister of ecology has been pushing to find some use for the abandoned city since last year, so it doesn't take long to get your foot in the irradiated door.

The Ukrainian government will also be footing some of the bill, by paying 18 cents (15 euro cents) per kilowatt-hour of electricity generated, which doesn't sound like much but is substantially higher than the average costs of solar power. And this is just the beginning, with over 99 megawatts planned for future expansions. Initial construction on just this first project should begin this month, once the commission is finalized.

According to Rodina CEO Evgeny Variagin, who gave a statement to Bloomberg:

Opening quote
"Bit by bit we want to optimize the Chernobyl zone. It shouldn't be a black hole in the middle of Ukraine. Our project is 100 meters from the reactor."
Closing quote

Chernobyl has often found its way into science fiction, creating mutants like the memorably creepy monster from The X-Files, which generally like to romanticize the city as a harsh warning to the dangers of nuclear fallout. While warnings about fallout should be heeded, it's good to see something like solar power moving in, and shaving off some of that desolation.

After all, while it may not be safe for humans to live there, plenty of sunlight still shines down on an empty space that could be using it for clean energy. Which is a dramatically different way of picturing Chernobyl.

Science News